Sunday, April 29, 2012

Movie Review: "Seven Pounds"

I am an ardent fan of the cinematic arts. Although I have certain genre preferences, I don’t let that stifle my curiosity and close myself to different flavors of entertainment. That said...I am a huge fan of science fiction, super hero and action movies! Please visit my other blog The Boxed Office for reviews, exclusively, on these types of movies.
The Cast: 
If I have to say anything about the acting talent of Will Smith, then stop reading this review now, because you haven’t been paying attention to this incredible actor. If you know like I know...then you can expect the same quality of work he has come to make, and we have come to enjoy. Rosario Dawson delivers in her role and is persuasive enough to make the relationship between her and Smith a believable occurrence, which is important for the emotional reaction this movie goes for. Woody Harrelson is always excellent in whatever he does...and this role is no exception. Despite the limits of the role he has, his performance is profound and has a lasting impression.
The Plot: 
   This film is the type of film that if I discuss the plot as it really is, it would ruin the movie for anyone watching it for the first time. With that said, I will be as descriptive as I can, while preserving the important points that make the movie what it is.
   Ben (Smith) is a man on a mission. His mission is one of redemption and he has set his mind to give seven people a second chance at life, a second chance to live life the way good people should live them. The ways in which he does this are varied, but he is under a self-imposed time limit...and he doesn’t have much time before he will no longer be able to help anyone. The “how” and the “why” for what he does MUST be seen to be understood, effective...and more meaningful than anything I can write here.
   Emily Posa (Dawson) has a heart condition and a rare blood type and needs a miracle to see anymore years of life. Ben might be that miracle, but what little life she has left is complicated by the fact that in Ben’s attempt to be a ray of hope for her...they fall in love and end up in a hopeless situation.

   Ezra Turner (Harrelson) is a blind meat salesman with a talent for playing the piano (a blind pianist...becoming all too common I think). Ben reaches out to him and tests his resolve to ensure that any help he is going to render, is well deserved. Ezra’s life is a hard one, but he maintains a positive attitude and uplifting exterior...despite the misery that churns within him. Sometimes we can’t see the blessings that are right in front of us.
The Verdict: 
   I was skeptical at first of a movie that seeks to repeat the all too familiar theme of someone or something being the guardian angel or knight in shinning armor for somebody...or group of somebody’s. My skepticism wasn’t warranted as this movie had the advantage of having great actors in it that delivered performances that struck the most profound emotional levels.
   The way the story unfolds is essential to having the effect I presume it was intended to have. Not everything is as it seems and there always seems to be more to the story than is being revealed...even when the movie begins to slowly reveal itself.
   If you’re looking for an action film, this movie isn’t it. If you’re looking for a drama that captivates your emotions while at the same time dangles a mystery in front of you that slowly unfolds in ways you never expected...then this is exactly what you were looking for. I found this film to be more enjoyable than I anticipated, especially since it was the type of film I don’t normally subject myself to...and was pleasantly surprised to find three and a half cinnamon sticks, out of five, in my cup of tea.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Customer Service

   Have you heard of the saying “The customer is always right?” It’s not always true, but it has been the staple of many businesses that dedicate themselves to serving the customer...and in return get customer loyalty which ensures continued and profitable business. Now, I’m not going to pretend that anything I write here, especially about this subject, are absolutes...since we all probably have a story about a profitable business that has terrible customer service, or have witnessed a business fail that had excellent customer service. There are exceptions to every rule...but as a rule, a business does better with great customer service than without it.
   I had a recent experience with service, and being a customer, felt I was right. For some reason, a specific scene always plays in my head when I find myself in a situation where I have to point out that I’m not happy with the service. The scene is from the Michael Douglas movie “Falling Down” and the scene is when he walks into a fast food place and wants some breakfast, but they’re serving lunch. He delivers the classic line “ Have you heard of the saying ‘the customer is always right?’...well here I am, the customer.”

   Well, there I was, the customer. I was at a restaurant I had been at several times, ordering a dish without mushrooms (hate the fungus and don’t know why they classify it as a vegetable...when it’s a damn fungus), that I have ordered every time I had been there. Only this time, they told me they couldn’t do it. Excuse me...? I know they “could” because they’ve done it before, so the only logical explanation is that they would not. problem, I didn’t raise a fuss...but I did want a small word with the manager.
   My only intention was to simply bring the situation to the attention of management so that in the future they could be more consistent. After all, I went to this particular location in the chain because they feed me without the fungus while a closer location to my abode won’t accommodate me. The conversation was pleasant and brief...but not without a surprise. The manager was filling in from his regular location, the very same I was slamming as I spoke to him. It wasn’t an awkward moment for me because I tell it like it is...but for him, it might have been uncomfortable (although he never let on that he was).

   After he left, I was satisfied that I had been heard, impressed with the professionalism and cool demeanor I had been met with and very much enjoying my meal and family time when the manager returned. Imagine my surprise when he came bearing gifts...both in hand and unseen. In hand he had some figurines that represented a portion of the story behind the theme of the restaurant. That was nice...something for the shelf. It’s when he said that he paid for everything that had been ordered that I realized that “customer service” comes in levels...and I had just experienced the top level!
   By now you’re probably wondering what and where this restaurant is...but my letter to the top levels of the company about the great service will have to be sufficient. The important part of all this is that through the actions of one person’s dedication to great customer service, the company has retained a customer...and will no doubt gain several more, just from the telling of this story (although I’ll at least have to tell the “what” in order for that to happen. Wait...I just did, but the “where” will remain my secret).

Monday, April 16, 2012


   It’s everywhere you go, and everywhere you don’t. Almost everyone engages in it, from almost every age group (I think I can reasonably exclude infants...although I have suspicions to the contrary). So what is it about human nature that compels us to gossip? Why do we feel the need to spread this specific brand of news and misinformation? I never really gave this subject much thought, but after I did, I came up with some interesting answers...and (lowering my voice and looking around to make sure I’m not being observed) wait until you hear this.
   I would like to assume that everyone knows what gossip is...but I won’t do that, again. I asked someone that question and their reply was “Gossip is...gossip.” Yes...well, anyway, we should probably define gossip since it defining itself isn’t going to cut it.
    Gossip is idle talk or rumour about the personal or private affairs of others. It is one of the oldest and most common means of sharing facts and views, but also has a reputation for the introduction of errors and variations into the information transmitted. The term can also imply that the idle chat or rumor is of personal or trivial nature, as opposed to normal conversation.”
   “The term is sometimes used to specifically refer to the spreading of dirt and misinformation, as (for example) through excited discussion of scandals. Some newspapers carry "gossip columns" which detail the social and personal lives of celebrities or of √©lite members of certain communities.”
   So it seems that gossip is a decidedly negative thing, or perhaps it’s negativity is done by choice. I’m sure very few reading this (if anyone) have not been exposed to gossip. It’s been my experience that most gossip starts off rooted in some sort of fact, no matter how small. The twisting and embellishing of that fact is what makes gossip...well, gossip. But why are so many of us so interested in the dirt of others? I know, there are some reading this that don’t engage in gossip and refuse to listen to it...except when you hear it. I say that because it’s everywhere, and sometimes it’s presented as fact instead of the misinformation (and sometimes disinformation) it really is. I dare say, if you watch any television news, listen to news on the radio, or read news in a newspaper or on the internet, then you are being exposed to gossip.
   The form that gossip takes still doesn’t explain why we are so addicted to it (for those that really are...and you know who you are even if I don’t. After I find out though, I won’t tell anyone...promise). Maybe we are just nosey by nature. We just have to know about the business of another because maybe it makes us feel better about our own. In that light, it may not be an “all bad” thing...this gossip. It might even have some positive social benefits?

Gossip has been researched in terms of its evolutionary psychology origins.[1] This has found gossip to be an important means by which people can monitor cooperative reputations and so maintain widespread indirect reciprocity.[2] Indirect reciprocity is defined here as "I help you and somebody else helps me." Gossip has also been identified by Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary biologist, as aiding social bonding in large groups.” perhaps the reason so many are drawn in by gossip is because we naturally seek to bond with each other, and talking smack about each other helps us...come together? Umm...yeah, I can see that.

   I can also see how gossip can be used as an effective diversionary tactic to draw focus away from other areas of importance by manipulating our natural desire to socially immerse. With gossip, we can be kept incognizant of issues that adversely effect us, but are beneficial to those enacting the diversion, but I digress...that subject is for another post (but you didn’t hear that from me).

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Finances: A Hard Game to Play

   I always figured that it must feel good to be on “easy street” for those I perceived as being on it. It would seem that I’m not always accurate in my assumptions (which should never really be made first) since there are more than a few stories of people that simply can’t manage their vast amounts of money. Very few of us, when compared to the number of the majority, will ever get the opportunity to have this tragic experience, but it still leaves me wondering why this “game” is such a hard one to play.
   We’ve all heard the stories of the people that win huge lottery amounts, only to have their lives wrecked beyond comprehension because of their inability to cope with incredible wealth. I say with confidence that if it were me, things wouldn’t be that way. Then I wonder how many others like myself have said the same...only to be faced with a reality that was simply incomprehensible until it happens. I read a few articles recently that prompted me to consider the “blessing” of financial success, either through luck or hard work, and the tragedy of losing it all through carelessness and the inability to plan.
   A recent example is ex-Celtic Antoine Walker. A three-time NBA All-Star, the Boston Herald (Friday, March 16, 2012, page 16) reports that he is now broke. What...? I was astonished and left wondering how this could happen.
Walker, who earned more than $110 million in the NBA, blew it all on homes in Miami and Chicago, Bentleys, furs, diamonds, exotic vacations, bad investments and whopping gambling debts... a complete lack of respect for the talent he was blessed with to give him an opportunity at a better standard of well as empower him to be a helpful force to others. Perhaps I’ve oversimplified the issue, in fact, I’m sure I have...but it just strikes me as asinine, especially for a professional athlete whose earning power is based on their finite physical ability, to have no foresight into how they will earn a living in the future and go from earning $110 million to... in a $915-a-month apartment in Boise - with a roommate - eating cold cuts and KFC and playing for $25,000 in the NBA’s development league.
   It has me wondering what the future holds for Warren Sapp since I read on Yahoo that he is now filing for bankruptcy since he can’t pay back the $6.7 million he owes in back child support (say what?), alimony and to creditors. Being a father of five, I have absolutely no comprehension of a man that doesn’t support his children. In fact, I have no comprehension at all of Mr. Sapp’s mentality to owe for his children, and yet report $6.45 million in assets including...

...240 pairs of Jordan athletic shoes worth almost $6,500, a $2,250 watch and a lion skin rug worth $1,200. He also reported losing his 2002 Super Bowl ring with the Bucs and his 1991 national championship ring from the University of Miami.
   I don’t know what it’s like to play a sport professionally. I can only guess that it takes hard work, dedication...and on some level, it’s fun. I can say that the “game of life” isn’t really a game and if you live it like one you run the risk of ending up in similar positions that these two ex-athletes have. All I can take from these stories is an affirmation of what I already know and practice: Take care of your children and live today with a plan for the future.